Teaching kids how to cook mother’s favorite dishes.
Showing them the places your ancestors are from.
Telling stories about how parents met and what they’ve done before you’ve arrived.
Most of the kids don’t think about what’d happened before they were born. And if they do––it happens late in their lives. Often too late. The persons to best introduce them to their heritage are long gone. Still, some don’t care. But many cherish their mother and father’s stories about their parents, great, and grandparents. And the stories were always there. Much depends however on the skills of a storyteller.
Some stories are quite casual. How your parents met, how she dressed for the wedding, how they decided on your name. Some are more dramatic. The war stories are particularly shocking and much more telling. How your father was let to escape from a train to Auschwitz after being picked during the roundup on the street, how your mother nursed you, and two other newborns, after their mothers were killed in the bombing, how they arrested your cousins during food delivery to the ghetto, and how they disappeared ever since. These stories are not readily told, and it takes some time and effort to unearth them. People who lived them, who were traumatized the most, often are least willing to share them.
But all these traditions serve a great purpose––they bring the sense of belonging. This is crucial when some other power tries to invade your sphere, be it territorial or cultural.
My old country had to fight for its existence for centuries. One can find our land on the crossroads of Europe. West-East, North-South, they all met, and fought, on Polish territory. A country to exist has to have the ability to defend itself. And we certainly had our share of opportunities to show it.
The most recent chance to show our unity was the hated Communist oppression. Our religion was the unifying factor, and when the Pope John Paul II, with a help of The Highest Power put his finger on the scale, the Iron Curtain crumbled.
Despite all the invading forces, we could survive as a nation since 966. And we put it in our national anthem––Poland won’t perish, as long as we are alive. Unless the Poles, as the Trojans with Greek horse, let other people invade us from inside.